Felipe Massa’s love affair with the Istanbul Park circuit goes on. He took his third pole position in a row at the circuit where he scored his first in 2006. It leaves him perfectly poised to turn the trick again in the race tomorrow.
Joining him on the front row is McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen. He and Lewis Hamilton, third, held championship leader Kimi Raikkonen back for fourth.
With Super Aguri missing from the grid and only 20 cars participating, the first two stages of qualifying would see five cars eliminated instead of six, with ten progressing to Q3 as usual.
Giancarlo Fisichella led the charge at the start of the first part of qualifying, knowing that wherever he qualified he would lose three places on the grid following his penalty for going through a red light in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton moved to the top of the times early on with a 1’26.192 and then stayed in the pits. It took the Ferraris several attempt to beat it, Felipe Massa eventually putting in a 1’25.994.
Also lapping quickly late in the session were the Toyotas with Jarno Trulli and Timp Glock rising to fourth and fifth in the dying moments.
The battle at the other end of the times sheets was even more fierce. Sebastian Vettel defied expectations to get into Q2, leaving his team mate Sebastien Bourdais and, not surprisingly, both Force India cars behind.
Kazuki Nakajima failed to beat Vettel by a tenth of a second but the bigger surprise was Nelson Piquet behind him in 17th, knocked out in the first session just as he was in Melbourne.
Bottom five drivers’ times for part one
16. Kazuki Nakajima 1’27.547
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’27.588
18. Sebastien Bourdais 1’27.621
19. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’27.807
20. Adrian Sutil 1’28.325
Ferrari returned to the fore in the second part of qualifying with Kimi Raikkonen topping the times sheets ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Late in the session Robert Kubica’s BMW took over third.
Further back a poor lap from Timo Glock saw him 15th, a full second slower than team mate Jarno Trulli, and knocked out of qualifying. Vettel slotted in 14th behind the two Hondas.
The last driver knocked out was Nico Rosberg in 11th, the Williams now clearly lagging behind the Renaults, Red Bulls and Toyotas on raw pace.
Bottom five drivers’ times for part two
11. Nico Roberg 1’27.012
12. Rubens Barrichello 1’27.219
13. Jenson Button 1’27.298
14. Sebastian Vettel 1’27.412
15. Timo Glock 1’27.806
With BMW not showing the pace of previous races, and Renault not going as light on fuel as they did in Spain, the battle for the front two rows was entirely between Ferrari and McLaren.
A third straight pole position at the Istanbul circuit for Felipe Massa rarely seemed in any doubt. He was comfortably quicker than anyone else – especially Lewis Hamilton, who lost a second in sector two on his first attempt at a flying lap.
Hamilton elected not to run a lap on the softer option tyres, feeling they were running low on grip late in the lap. He did his final effort on scrubbed hard tyres and it was enough to lift him into third place – albeit behind his team mate Heikki Kovalainen, who did use the softer tyres.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, three tenths of a section behind his team mate and just 0.007 off Hamilton.
Top ten drivers’ times for part three
1. Felipe Massa 1’27.617
2. Heikki Kovalainen 1’27.806
3. Lewis Hamilton 1’27.923
4. Kimi Raikkonen 1’27.936
5. Robert Kubica 1’28.390
6. Mark Webber 1’28.417
7. Fernando Alonso 1’28.422
8. Jarno Trulli 1’28.836
9. Nick Heidfeld 1’28.882
10. David Coulthard 1’29.959